We talked to Aris Bailan, founder of Booknowmed, about healthcare booking platforms, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Aris Bailan: We are among the fortunate ones to be safe amid a worldwide health crisis. We are very grateful for this.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Booknowmed.
Aris Bailan: Upon completion of my studies in healthcare management I returned to Athens, my hometown, where I started working in multinational corporations within the healthcare industry. Following closely the healthcare market, I started realizing that there is a niche market that continued to be underserved.
Thousands of dialysis patients worldwide undergo treatment 3-4 times per week, limiting considerably their flexibility to travel abroad in fear of missing their treatment schedule. However, the actual treatment does not change from one country to another. The procedure, materials, duration, and pre-treatment check are the same throughout the World. The problem was that dialysis patients had little or no access to the clinics outside of their region and the few contact details one could find online back in 2017 were not enough to facilitate the booking process, which took on average 12 days.
It became obvious to me that this was an opportunity to use the power of the internet and offer a solution to this problem. Having a background in healthcare through my studies as well as the profession of my parents, I always saw myself doing something in the healthcare industry; I took a great risk but it also felt very natural.
I founded Virtus Vita back in 2017 as an online directory of dialysis clinics where patients could submit their reservation requests for treatment. From the very beginning, the goal was to empower patients by giving them access to facilities around the globe and by transforming the booking process of treatments; making it shorter and as transparent as possible.
We managed to secure a seed round of investment from SCV and the ENIF and a year letter we launched booknowmed.com; the first online booking engine for dialysis treatments globally. Nowadays, booknowmed.com has a network of 405 clinics and hospitals in 52 countries: from the Canary Islands and Europe to Bali, Tokyo, the U.S., and L. American.
How does Booknowmed innovate?
Aris Bailan: Innovation brings disruption. Booknowmed.com has transformed the landscape of a very traditional and niche market while using technological advancements and the internet to bring inclusivity.
It is worth mentioning that booknowmed.com has reduced the total booking time from 12 days to 9 mins, provides real-time availability of clinics and pricing information. However, the real impact comes from patients that traveled outside their city for the first time in years, using booknowmed.com. These are patients that have been reluctant and frustrated with the complexity of the previous process but also patients that have been missing- among others- family vacations for years.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Aris Bailan: The pandemic has not only affected business, as travels were eliminated and all countries were affected; but has changed the landscape for the healthcare industry forever. On the one hand, it has created space for remote consultation to grow, which will partly replace the traditional visit to the GP. On the other hand, it has made people crave traveling, which will boost medical tourism considerably over the next years.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Aris Bailan: Like a lot of businesses, we had to make painful decisions to cope with the new reality, one that we did not know – back in early 2020- how much it would last. The company underwent an internal restructuring while our focus was shifted towards creating awareness on safety, nutrition, and exercise at home. Over the years we have created rapport and trust with our clients and we did not want to lose touch.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Aris Bailan: The COVID-19 pandemic is a black-swan situation and so, I believe the most impactful tool is transparency coming from the management of the company. When COVID-19 hit Europe back in mid-March 2020, employees, investors, and vendors all started to become anxious realizing the huge impact a pandemic would have on medical tourism. Top-level management would provide weekly updates looping in employees and stakeholders. I felt that our employees had a very good understanding of the business decisions we had to take, all because they were going through this process alongside the management.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Aris Bailan: Booknowmed.com is currently the only booking engine in the niche market of Holiday Dialysis. Our competitors are still offering their services in a more traditional sense. We remain committed to our vision to continue to innovate by offering a true solution to patients around the World and by living up to our motto: “medical travels made easy”.
Your final thoughts?
Aris Bailan: These are unprecedented times that we are experiencing. No one could have predicted that a pandemic would happen and it would last for more than 1,5 years, the impact of which we will start feeling over the next 5 years. Nevertheless, challenge or disaster brings along opportunities not only for entrepreneurs but also for the general population. A distinct example is a transformation of the workplace and the flexibility of companies to support remote work, widening, therefore, the pool of available talent; whether this is nationals of other countries, parents, or people looking to jump-start a new career and are in need of part-time work.
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